The Early Chapters of Genesis: Chapter 9:18-19

Genesis 9:18‑19  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
But there dawns another dealing with mankind, ere long to be consummated by a most striking act on God's part, here marked in an initiatory way as characteristic of the earth since the flood. We need not therefore do more at this point than present a few remarks as general as the text. In due time we may dwell particularly when details come before us.
“And the sons of Noah that went out of the ark were Sherri, and Ham, and Japheth. And Ham is father of Canaan. These three [are] sons of Noah; and from these was all the earth overspread” (vers. 18, 19).
We have already remarked on the principle of government introduced for the first time. Life, man's life, was a sacred thing. It came from God in a way altogether peculiar, as was made known from the outset in Gen. 2:88And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8). Man alone became a living soul by the inbreathing of Jehovah Elohim; other animals without any such immediate association breathed through their organization according to His will. Adam's sons were of Adam naturally, yet inheriting the relationship which Adam had of God differently from all other creatures here below. He, and his alone, had consequently an immortal soul. But to Noah and his sons emerged from the ark there was laid down the root of government, without defining those forms which developed later, all of which have the sanction of His providence.
When the free use of the lower creatures of God was granted, beast of the earth, bird of the air, fish of the sea, every moving thing that lives was to be food for man. As the green herb, God gave all, save the blood, its life, which was not to be eaten: a most significant and instructive reserve, owning Himself the sovereign source of life. Still more solemnly does He speak of man's life. “And surely your blood, [that] of your lives will I require, at the hand of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of man, at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth Man's blood by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He Man.” We repeat it, because of its signal and abiding importance; and the more so, because other and inferior grounds are often allowed to take the place of divine right with which nothing else can compare.
This, followed up by the covenant with man and the subject creation, and sealed with its appropriate sign of mercy, was settled before attention is again drawn to the three heads of Noah's race, “Shem and Ham, and Japheth,” in the same order as before (Gen. 5:32; 6:10; 7:1332And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32)
10And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Genesis 6:10)
13In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; (Genesis 7:13)
). Now, there is an ominous addition, “and Ham is the father of Canaan.” This receives a speedy comment in the sad incident and yet more in the solemn prophecy that follows to the end of the chapter; it not only reverberates through the Old Testament as a whole, but will be only consummated in that kingdom which awaits the Anointed of Jehovah, when all the earth shall be filled with His glory, and the knowledge of it, as the waters cover the sea. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts shall perform this, as surely as His fire is in Zion and His furnace in Jerusalem.
Next, we read “these three [are] sons of Noah; and from these was all the earth overspread.” The last word first indicates that which has been proceeding ever since. There is no sufficient ground to affirm it of the ante-diluvian earth. What strikes one more perhaps is to see how slowly it was carried out after the deluge. Indeed, whatever the causes which acted on men to hinder the plan of God, it soon was plain that mankind resolved on a united community, and not only to congregate together, but to build a city and a tower with its head aspiring to the heavens, and to make a name to themselves lest they should be scattered over the face of the whole earth. This, we are assured, only brought out divine power and wisdom on God's part, not merely in frustrating their vain purpose, but in the accomplishing of His will that they should overspread the earth. He judged their self-exalting folly by breaking the bond which knit them together, and by introducing in the simplest and surest way a separative principle He compelled them to scatter, abandoning their unfinished tower, the abiding monument, not of man's union for strength and fame, but of God's pouring confusion on self-will to its shame. A vast deal more was done by God's interposition, as will appear in due time; but this much may be stated here on the overspreading of all the earth, without anticipating the surprising details that are to follow. As ever, fallen man cared not for God's will—had pleasure in his own will. God was in none of his thoughts, but self which always exposes to some fresh and ruinous device of the great enemy.